Do you have an unresolved tax issue but can’t get a hold of the IRS? During this busy filing season, the IRS estimates that the agency is only able to answer six out of ten calls from taxpayers. Luckily for us, there’s a Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) within the IRS specifically set up to give voice to your tax concerns. If your refund is held up or you’re a victim of identity theft, the TAS is tasked with resolving the tax problems of individuals and small businesses.
Yahoo Finance interviewed Nina Olson, IRS National Taxpayer Advocate, to find out some of the obstacles taxpayers can expect to face this filing season, and how to tackle them.
Scammers are now targeting your employer
Identity thieves get more sophisticated each year. Coming up with new schemes to steal the most data with the least amount of work, Olson warns that scammers are now targeting employers’ payroll departments.
Typically the scammer, posing as someone from the IRS, will call a payroll employee and ask them to resend their W2 forms, stating the original electronic file has been corrupted. With all those Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and earnings on hand, scammers are able to produce perfectly filed returns and deposit the refunds into their own bank accounts.
If you’ve determined that more than one return was filed using your SSN, and the one you’re trying to file is being rejected as a duplicate, take these 6 steps to protect yourself:
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission
- Alert the major credit bureaus
- Check your credit report for accounts opened without your authorization
- Fill out IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, form 14039
- Send in a paper tax return
- Set up spending alerts on your bank and credit card accounts
Scammers are targeting tax preparers
Hackers are also targeting tax preparers who are ill-prepared for a security breach. Carefully crafted phishing emails that look official, but are ripe with malicious links, are being sent to accountants and tax professionals across the country.
There are different twists to this new filing scam. In one scenario, the scammer uses the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit and then calls the taxpayer, posing as an official debt collection agent. On this call, the scammer typically says the refund was deposited in error, and requests the money forwarded to a new account.
In today’s day and age of rampant ID theft, Olson advises that before you hire someone to do your taxes, find out what measures they have in place to safeguard their clients’ information, what security software is used, how sensitive electronic files are securely shared, and where all your information is being stored.
You may have to file an amended return
By mid-February, 32 million Americans have already filed their taxes, but some may need to amend their returns in order to claim their full benefit. In the Budget Bipartisan Act of 2018 that was signed on Feb. 9, there were a number of tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2016, but were retroactively extended through 2017.
Basically what this means is that some deductions, also known as “above the line deductions” like tuition and mortgage expenses, are available without having to itemize to claim the benefit. But because the forms are outdated, you might need to fill out additional forms when you file.
For taxpayers who have already filed, you may have to file an amended return.
For those in the process of filing now, Olson says the IRS is working to get guidance and information to tax companies so they can reprogram the software and allow people to claim their full benefit for 2017.
“We’ve had times before where this has happened and it’s led to a great deal of confusion on taxpayers,” says Olson, but you can check the IRS’s website for any updated forms as they get revised.
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